Each year over the past six years I’ve set myself a challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November… and each year I have reached my target, although I confess a couple of times it’s only been by a few hundred – once just a few, words. People who haven’t tried this ask why I do it and is what i write any good. Well I can’t really answer if what I write is any good, I’m modestly pleased with it and others have been complimentary, but I can answer why I do it.
First of all, I’m a great faffer, and I do get easily distracted if I’m not on an exciting part of my story, or I’m not in the mood. So knowing I have to get 1600+ words under my writing belt does force me to focus and just get down to the grind of it. Secondly there is that sense of achievement that I know I will feel when I’ve reached, or maybe even surpassed the daily target. There is also a sense – which seems to evaporate at the end of the challenge, of having a job to do, getting on with it, nose to the grindstone, and getting it finished, and feeling satisfied with that job done. Another result of working like this is getting really engaged with the task, having that dedicated space to properly pursue the goal, and feeling that writing is a craft and your slogging at it like any other dedicated craftsperson does. As you get nearer to the end, as the word count rises, you get a real sense of encouragement and maybe like a marathon runner (but without the sweat and physical pain) with the end not far away you can really force yourself to press on, even as the time ticks by – on one occasion I got my last words done just before midnight on the last day. Above all I feel more professional: I’m sitting down to do a job,
So, focus and concentration, a sense of purpose, working routines, an ongoing sense of satisfaction, getting into a rhythm of writing, a sense of achievement… and more. When the challenge is over you have this body of work which you can really get your teeth into, finish, edit and then do whatever you want with it… maybe even publish!
So if this challenge is so successful, why don’t I do it all the time. Well, for an ordinary person with other commitments, life can interfere, you can run out of energy, lose interest, go completely off the boil. … and unfortunately, I seem to have gone off the boil. I finished my 50,000 words on November 30th and I’ve been plodding away to finish the novel ever since. However, I am still plodding on.
The 50,000 word challenge is to be found on the National Novel Writing Month site; it’s a great place to be, so supportive of writers, and one of the ongoing things is setting a non-competitive goal tracker, where you set your own target and date… and this is what I’ve done to try and get me more motivated, post-Christmas and New Year. I set an ambitious target, and I don’t think I will meet it, but I’m nibbling away, word by word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence. I will finish the story, but maybe not as quickly as I hoped!
Here’s a link to NaNo:
… and here’s a link to my books, some of which I published after writing them during the challenge: